Lunch Prep – Mason Jar Salads

I know, I know, these salads are everywhere right now, but I have had a number of coworkers, family members and friends ask me about them so I thought I’d contribute to the ever growing Mason Jar Salad army.  Here goes!

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I used to spend about 45 minutes each weeknight putting together Max and I’s lunches. From getting out the ingredients, chopping, actually building, putting away and cleaning up. By the time I’d be finished I’d be ready to stamp my foot as I could have done something that was so much more fun than being a responsible adult (hello, painting nails, going on a youtube spiral, Dr. Who, and making new music playlists or baking a treat!?) Some nights I would get lazy and make nothing, ending up with lunch from a store by my workplace, which I quickly realized took a chunk out of my wallet and deposits it right onto my waist (yikes).

Finally, I found out about Mason Jar Salads through the interweb and it has CHANGED my life. I wish I could be less dramatic about it, but the amount of pure smugness I feel when bringing said jar of salad into work each day (with only having completed an hour of work prepping it all on Sunday) is just too much. I can’t even. They’re healthy, colourful, filling, easy AND fun to make, and they just look so dang pretty and professional. It takes us about an hour from start to finish to make 10 jars of salad (one for each of us for each day of the week). I get Max whirring on the food processor to slice our veggies while I prep the avocado, beans, tuna, quinoa, dressing and jars. It is so much fun spending time with your partner in the kitchen working together as a team to make healthier and more budget friendly lunches. By constructing these salads in the right way, your salads will stay completely fresh until Friday! I’ll let you digest that for a second. I just said you can have salad ready to go for every day of the week and you only need to spend an hour on Sunday to do it.

I’m not going to give you a recipe as more of a method and best practice. You can do a lot with the base, and I find that I am constantly making them a little different each time I make them, usually due to what I have in my fridge.

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Layer 1: Dressing. This could be a simple olive oil & vinegar to store bought to homemade dressing. I usually put a healthy sized tablespoon into the bottom of all my jars.

Layer 2: Hearty veggies. I’m talking onions, cucumber, celery, cherry tomatoes, carrots, beets, shredded sweet potato, broccoli- anything crisp that you know won’t mind sitting in dressing for a few days and won’t get soggy. Run them through your food processor, and place them all in a large bowl and mix together. I usually put in about a cup of mixed veg per jar.

Layer 3: Less hearty veggies/fruits. Fruits (apples, pears), avocados, berries, sliced tomatoes.

Layer 4: Protein. Max and I like to switch it up and have a rotating protein so we don’t get too bored. There will usually be 3 days worth of beans (black, gorbonzo, cannellini) and 2 days worth of canned tuna or salmon (make sure it’s ocean wise fish and your cans are BPA free). Usually 1 can of beans and 2 cans of said fish does the trick. Rinse the beans and drain the fish. I usually do about 1/3 of a cup per jar.

Layer 4: Grain. I love quinoa in salads. I’ll be honest, I haven’t put any other grain into our salads yet. But you could also do whole grain pasta, gluten free pasta, brown rice, millet, etc. Make sure you make this ahead of time and it is cool/room temp before starting! You don’t want to cook or wilt your veggies! Normally I put in about a ½ cup per jar (works out to 1 cup of uncooked quinoa).

Layer 5:  I usually skip this layer, but if you’re all about the cheese, stick it in at this point. Feta is nice and holds up well!

Layer 6: Greens! The reason the greens go on the top is to keep them away from the wetter stuff at the bottom, which would make it soggy. Make sure that your greens are dry before you put them in and dry off the surface you’re chopping them on. I like spinach in mine, but kale, lettuce, and swiss chard will do in a pinch! Usually there’s about 3/4 cup or so per jar.

Layer 7: Herbs, nuts, seeds, sprouts, etc. We’ve been enjoying cashews in our salads lately! Cilantro and basil are also great additions. I was sad during last prep when I realized I forgot to pick some up. Other ideas: sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, dried fruit, sunflower sprouts, pea shoots.

And you’re done! Throw on those lids, stuff ‘em in the fridge and say SEE YA, SUCKERS. Dance a little jig and high-five the closest person.

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Side-note: there’s only 8 jars here. It was a holiday when we made them (on a Monday), so we only needed 8 jars for the week.

To eat: shake vigorously to disperse the dressing evenly over everything and get it all tangled up together. Pour into your chosen trough, devour. I work in an office and have access to dishes to eat my salad from. Max works on a construction site and takes a large Tupperware bowl like container to dump his salad into. The dishwasher takes care of the jars, so clean up is nice and easy each night.

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Other than salads, I usually take a piece of fruit and a hard boiled egg (which are all also prepped on Sunday) with me to work for snacking.

What’s your lunch routine like? Tell me your tricks and tips in the comments below!

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